by Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN News, Oakland, CA
OAKLAND — 21-year-old Filipina-American Vanessa Quintos Plotkin is one of numerous missing partygoers of the horrific warehouse fire that happened in Oakland, CA, on Friday, December 2nd.
With the rising number of identified victims of the major fire — 36, as of press time— Plotkin’s family and friends fear she may be among the death count.
Plotkin, originally from the Lakewood, CA, is living in the Bay Area while attending UC Berkeley as a third-year sociology major.
According to a report from CBS LA, the family said they last heard from Plotkin around 11:00pm Friday night.
Plotkin’s roommate has confirmed that she attended the party at the warehouse, known as the “Ghost Ship” — a labyrinth-like artists’ cooperative, consisting of makeshift studios and apartments built in hazardous conditions.
The Plotkin family left their home in Southern California for Oakland on Sunday, in the wake of the news.
Vanessa’s father, Gary Plotkin, told the San Francisco Chronicle, “We’re beside ourselves. This is just like a nightmare. I can’t believe this.”
Plotkin is also one of two UC Berkeley students who attended the party — the other was 20-year-old Jennifer Morris, a friend of Plotkin’s, who was confirmed dead by officials as of Dec. 6.
UC Berkeley and its students offered sympathy for the victims, and hope for their fellow classmates.
Cal Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks said in a statement posted to the university’s website, “We are working together as a community to help process this tragic loss…we fervently hope that those who were injured will recover quickly and fully. We also stand together, in solidarity and support, with all in our neighboring communities who have been impacted by this terrible tragedy.”
“Being a person in the arts community, it’s sad to lose people that are with you on the same endeavor and going to the same school with you hoping for their safety and their families,” shared one female student.
Hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil at Oakland’s Lake Merritt on Monday night for the 36 known victims, and to show support for those who were severely injured or reported still missing.
As the city mourns this tragic incident, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley vowed to prosecute those responsible, which she says ranges from murder all the way to involuntary manslaughter.
“I want to express our deepest condolences to those family members who lost loved ones in this fire, and to offer support to not only their families and their friends, but to those individuals who experienced the horrors of this fire and survived,” O’Malley said. “We’re looking at two things: one is, whether or not there is any criminal liability attached to this fire; and secondly, if there is criminal liability, against whom?”
The regretful manager of the Ghost Ship warehouse building, Derek Alamena, has since apologized for the tragedy.
“I’m incredibly sorry,” Almena, whose goal was to make Ghost Ship a place for artists to dream and create, told NBC’s Today. “Everything that I did was to make this a stronger and more beautiful community and to bring people together.”